§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ That this House at its rising on Friday do adjourn till Tuesday 26th June.—[Mr. lain Macloed.]
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I wish to oppose the Government's Motion. I should like to explain at the outset that it would be hypocritical of me to deny that, when the Leader of the House announced a few days ago that the House at the Whitsun Adjournment would have a Recess of just over two weeks, I shared the sense of relief which many hon. Members may have had. Nor do I wish, in opposing the Motion, to raise in any sense the demagogic argument that M.P.s are not doing their duty or performing their functions when the House of Commons is not sitting. All of us know that Members of Parliament require to have periods when they can make extended visits to their constituencies or when they can do other of their duties without which they cannot perform their duties in this House.
Therefore, in opposing the Motion today, I am not in any sense saying that it is necessary, right or desirable that the House of Commons should be in something like permanent session. I think that that would be disastrous. It would certainly be disastrous for the Government. It would also be inadvisable for Parliamentary institutions as a whole. My argument in opposing the Motion today is specifically directed to the immediate Parliamentary situation which we have to face.
I must confess that, in the light of that situation, I was rather surprised when the Leader of the House said that the House was to adjourn for just over a fortnight. I am sure that the Leader of the House can produce precedents to show that there have been many occasions when the House has adjourned for two weeks, or even more, at Whitsun. However, I do not think that that is an argument that he can cite effectively on this occasion. I could cite cases where the business of the House of Commons has been considered sufficiently urgent for the House to be adjourned only for a period of a week or less at Whitsun.
If that is the case and if there are precedents on both sides about the period 208 which is permissible or customary at Whitsuntide, I submit that the only question before the House now is whether there are topics of great urgency which the House has so far not been able to debate and which we should have time to debate. That is the ground upon which I oppose the Motion.
I have no doubt that other hon. Members will wish to cite other topics which they wish to have discussed. I wish to direct the attention of the House in particular to two major subjects which I should have thought that everybody in the House, whatever view they may have about them, would agree should be debated on the Floor of the House. I know that all my hopes are not fulfilled, but I should have hoped that most hon. Gentlemen would agree that it is right that these subjects should be voted upon as well as discussed.
The first subject which the House has not debated fully is the subject of the H-bomb tests now being carried out by the United States, with the full approval of the British Government, and partly with the assistance of facilities provided by the British Government. We have not been told in the House what is the scale of these H-bomb tests being conducted by the United States, but from the answers which have so far been extracted from the Government it may very well be the case that the series of H-bomb tests now being conducted by the Americans are the largest series of H-bomb tests ever conducted in the history of the world. It may be proved subsequently, on adding up the total of megatons that the Russians have exploded, that their last series of tests was somewhat bigger, but nobody knows for certain yet.
Whatever any hon. Member may think about these matters and however convinced some hon. Members may be that it is right for the Americans to proceed with these tests, we should surely have the right to debate the matter fully in the House. That right has been denied. On a number of occasions during the last six or seven weeks my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and others have pressed the Government to give a full day to discuss these H-bomb tests. On several occasions the Leader of the House has 209 used as his argument in denying us the right to have such a debate, not that the subject is not important, but that he does no; believe that there is sufficient division in the House for the matter to be debated.
There are many features connected with this series of H-bomb tests which make it all the more necessary that it should be debated in the House. We had an illustration of this state of affairs in the reply given by the Prime Minister only a few minutes ago in answer to a Question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). The Prime Minister, almost in as many words, replied, Well, these are very difficult technical matters". On earlier occasions, in reply to similar Questions, he has said, "These are questions which cannot be settled or debated or examined properly at Question time". Everybody who listened must have agreed with that. If that is the case, there is all the more reason why the matter should be debated in the House.
There are several new features connected with this series of H-bomb tests which make it imperative that the matter should be debated in the House of Commons. First, there are the new technical discoveries referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn. There are very important discoveries which might affect the whole question whether verification is necessary or in what circumstances it is necessary. That is one feature which we ought to debate in the House. There has been no full debate about it.
A second most important feature—not entirely novel, but in some respects novel—is that the Americans propose to conduct—possibly tomorrow or the day after; this week, it is now said—a series of high altitude tests. There is great dispute between the scientists of the world as to whether it is proper or right for high altitude tests to be conducted. It is an extremely difficult matter for any layman to decide, but, as far as it is possible for people to discover, it appears that in the main the scientists who favour the high altitude tests being conducted or who think that there is no danger in their being conducted are scientists in the pay of the Governments —the British or the American Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman goes a little too far. We cannot debate the relative merits of these activities at this time. It is quite in order for the hon. Gentleman to indicate that he desires to discuss the matter and, therefore, argue that we should not go away for this length of time, but we cannot go into the merits on this Motion.
§ Mr. Foot
Mr. Speaker, I was doing my very best to be strictly within the rules of order, because I was not discussing the merits of whether these high altitude tests should be conducted. I was seeking to stress that these are new features that make it all the more important that the matter should be debated in the House. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is proper for me, in pointing out why it is so essential to have a debate on the subject, to say that there are new features and big differences of opinion amongst scientists about this which make it all the more reprehensible that the matter has not so far been discussed in the House. That is the second reason. On this series of tests there is a big dispute amongst the scientists. The Government-paid scientists on the whole are on one side—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman has not followed. It cannot materially contribute to the length of time for which we should go away for the Recess whether the scientists on one side are in the employment of Governments or somebody else. It is sufficient to say that it is a matter of dispute between scientists.
§ Mr. Foot
I will not repeat what I was saying. It would be quite wrong for me to do so. I should have thought that the more I can illustrate how grave is the difference of opinion amongst the most eminent scientists in the world, the more that is an argument why the matter should be debated in the House of Commons. That is the second feature connected with these tests which makes it utterly deplorable that the House of Commons should not be afforded a debate on the matter.
There is a third consideration which has often been put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who put a question 211 to the Prime Minister about these tests a few minutes ago. My right hon. Friend has stressed, both in the House and in letters to The Times, that this series of American tests was started at the very moment when a new initiative was being taken at Geneva by the neutral nations which might conceivably have prevented the tests from going ahead at all.
These are new factors. After all, however expert and knowledgeable we may be in these matters—I do not profess to be so—we are dealing now with something about which even the scientists do not know. There is, therefore, a very grave responsibility on the House. Before Britain gave her approval to these tests being conducted, we should have had the fullest possible examination in the House. Whatever view any hon. Gentleman may take about the issue, I do not see how that proposition can be contested.
But it has been contested. It has been contested time and again by the Leader of the House. He has said, "I admit that this is an important matter. I am not trying to minimise its importance, but because I have no opposition to these tests from the Labour Front Bench I am entitled to arrange the business of the House so that we do not have a full debate upon it." The Leader of the House might say, "We had a foreign affairs debate in which the matter could have been raised." It is true that one or two hon. Members raised the matter. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) raised it. He had to raise other matters in his speech, because many other matters were compressed into that debate. However, speaking for myself and for my hon. Friends here, none of us was able to participate in that debate or express our views upon it. Many other hon. Gentlemen who wished to express their views on the subject of this series of tests were denied the right to do so.
Therefore, the Leader of the House is responsible for arranging the business of Parliament during the last six weeks, when the biggest series of H-bomb tests ever carried out in the history of the world has been conducted, in such a way as to deny the House the right to debate the subject fully. The respon- 212 sibility rests primarily on his shoulders, although it rests partially also on the Labour Front Bench, because the Labour Front Bench could have forced a debate on the subject if it had wanted to do so. No hon. Member would deny that. If the Opposition had demanded a full day's debate on H-bomb tests, we could have had it.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Whether or no the Opposition could have demanded a debate in the past is not relevant to the length of time for which we now go away.
§ Mr. Foot
Mr. Speaker, I would try to persuade you that it is relevant. I want the House to reject the Motion. If the Motion were rejected, the Government would have to come forward with a new proposal as to the time at which the House should meet again. I am asking, as I will develop at the end of my speech, that the House should meet either next week or the week after so that we can discuss the matters to which I am now referring.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have not got over plainly to the hon. Gentleman what is in my mind. All that, the desirability or not of rejecting the Motion and the consequences which he has in mind, is wholly unaffected by whether or no the official Opposition in the past have not demanded a debate or are responsible for not demanding a debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
The point of the hon. Member's present argument is made by saying that we have not had such a debate. The reasons for our not having had such a debate are irrelevant to this issue.
§ Mr. Foot
You say so, Mr. Speaker, but if I am allowed to say that we have not had such a debate, am I not also to be allowed to give my interpretation of why we have not had such a debate, which I should have thought would reinforce my argument that we should have one? That would be limiting my remarks by the rules of order.
§ Mr. Foot
I hoped you would not say that I must stick strictly to what you said and not be allowed to say more than that we have not had a debate in the past. I should think I could produce arguments why this House should not adjourn for so long and not be able to discuss matters which we have not discussed before.
That is my first reason for saying that this House should not accept the Motion. It is utterly intolerable that the British House of Commons, for whatever reason that I am not allowed fully to explain, should be denied the opportunity of having a full debate on this subject. That is one major issue. Whatever one may think, or whatever the rules of order, no one can deny that it is a matter of supreme importance for the human race.
I take the second case in which the Leader of the House has resorted to the same method to try to prevent a proper debate and a vote in the House. I do not need to go through all the incidents which led to the result, but everyone in this House knows the result on the question of the dispatch of troops to Thailand. British troops have been sent to Thailand. This House has had no full opportunity for debating that matter. One of the reasons why I am opposing the Government's Motion is that I want there to be a debate on that subject and, if possible, a vote in this House on that subject.
We had some discussion in the same foreign affairs debate, when all these matters were compressed together and there was some reference to this subject, but it was impossible to have a full debate upon it. Startling statements were made in that debate. We had the statement that if the Thailand Government demands that British troops should be sent there, they have to be sent. With the aid of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that presumably was the Government's view. If that is the position, that if countries covered by the S.E.A.T.O. pact demand troops to be sent there we are absolutely bound to send them, it is all the more urgent that the matter should be debated in this House and voted upon. I do not think that is the proper interpretation of the treaty, nor that it gives proper status to this House.
214 It does not give proper status to the House of Commons that, if British troops are sent abroad, we should be denied the right of having a debate and a vote; but that was the result of the Government's action, assisted by the official Opposition. We have been denied the right to debate these two matters of primary importance. The first I believe to be the more important, but at any moment the second, the dispatch of troops to Thailand, could turn into an event of enormous significance. Before the House reassembles, there could be a crisis in Laos, and we have no guarantee that the troops will never be used in Laos. The Leader of the Opposition asked the Government for answers about this. He did not get any answer, but that did not prevent him supporting the Government. We have had no adequate answers on the question of Thailand.
In the House yesterday there was an attempt by the Government to mystify and to conceal the facts about why the troops had been sent there and what was the threat. Questions have been asked about why this matter was not referred to the United Nations. If there is a threat in Thailand, the matter ought to have been referred to the United Nations. If there is no threat, British troops should not be there. If hon. Members think it absolutely right that these troops should go to Thailand, how can they defend the proposition that we should be denied the right of a debate on the matter?
Apparently, the reason why the Leader of the House has refused us the right to debate these matters is his new constitutional theory, the new "Macleod doctrine", that however important a subject may be and whatever opposition there may be in some quarters, so long as the official Opposition support the Government there is no need for a debate in this House. That is the doctrine he has enunciated time and again. It is not a doctrine which accords with the traditions of this House.
On the subject of Thailand, there is a Motion on the Order Paper signed by forty or fifty hon. Members opposing the Government's action and saying specifically that they deplore that action particularly because it has been done without the authorisation of the House 215 of Commons. I am not speaking only on behalf of my hon. Friends who sit on this bench, but on behalf of many other hon. Friends who have signed the Motion protesting against British troops being sent abroad without the authorisation of the House of Commons.
What are these Motions supposed to be? When hon. Members put them on the Order Paper, the purpose is that the matter should be debated. The Leader of the House becomes very cynical and regards them as pious essays in impotence. He does not care about them, but I think they should be treated seriously. They should be regarded as matters of some importance. When forty or fifty hon. Members say that they are apposed to British troops being sent abroad, particularly when that is done without Parliament agreeing to it, I should have thought, however cynical the Leader of the House might be about such a matter, he should try to arrange a debate on it.
On the question of H-bomb tests, there is a series of Motions on the Order Paper attacking the Government's attitude.
All this, apparently, is brushed aside by the Leader of the House. We are not asking the Government to upset their time-table or to disrupt their whole programme. All we are saying to the Government is, "How can you deny us the right to debate and, if possible, to vote upon these matters in the British House of Commons? How can we discharge our duties to our constituents properly if this is denied?"
How does the Leader of the House, or any other hon. Member, think that it will assist the dignity of this House if the idea gets abroad that debates on matters of such supreme importance as the two I have mentioned are to be prevented, by whatever method, whether by connivance between the two Front Benches or the edict of the Government, from being debated? There cannot be any conceivable reputable Parliamentary reason why, when we are supposed to be going away for a fortnight, we should not meet a week earlier to debate these matters.
I seriously ask the Leader of the House to withdraw this Motion and to bring 216 forward another Motion which would enable us to come back a week earlier so that we could discharge our duties to our constituents and say on the Floor of the House of Commons what we think about these matters. Do not let any hon. Member on either side of the House think that he can discharge his duties to his constituents in some hole-and-corner meeting upstairs, either in the 1922 Committee or at private meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Hon. Members cannot discharge their duties there. The place for Members of Parliament to stand up and say what they think on these matters is here. On these two major issues the Leader of the House is denying us that right.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
We have just been treated to one of the sporadic pieces of showmanship which we often get from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). It is obvious that he opposed the Motion, first, to trounce his Front Bench. He wanted to say that because the Members on his Front Bench had not used Supply days to debate things which he and his hon. Friends had in mind, they were not doing their duty. He was using that to make that attack upon them. That may be his idea of a good use of Parliamentary time, but it is not my idea.
He also used the opportunity to criticise the Government Front Bench. I do not need to defend the Government Front Bench, for right hon. Members on that bench can speak for themselves, but, in trouncing his own Front Bench and wishing to attack the Government Front Bench, the hon. Member was being unfair to Parliament. He was undermining the reputation which Parliament has with the people. He was suggesting that we were deliberately going away on holiday. He said that he would be the last to deny that there were occasions when hon. Members should get back to their constituents to refresh themselves first-hand on problems concerned with what was happening in their constituency.
If there is any basis in that argument —and, of course, there is much—if ever there was a time when hon. Members ought to be in their constituencies refreshing themselves on the views of their supporters, it is now. We have a 217 great debate starting tomorrow—it is to take two days—on the Common Market. Tremendous things have been happening throughout the world in the last two or three months and we ought to go back to find what strength and support we have in the constituencies.
I say with confidence that although some of the support we had may have temporarily gone away from us and however much the official Opposition Front Bench may have lost support at this moment, I am prepared to state quite clearly that the hon. Member and his six or seven special hon. Friends, the Independent Socialists, have hardly any support in the country at all. There is no need for them to go to their constituencies to find something which did not exist there before.
The hon. Member is an experienced Member who has made a study of constitutional Government. If ever an hon. Member understood Parliament and the impact which speeches made here can have, it is the hon. Member. At this time to try to spread the seeds throughout the country that Parliament is not trying to do its duty on these important matters is forging an irresponsibility which could be disastrous.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
How often does the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) come here? Sir Harmar Nicholls: I hope the House will disregard the rather showmanship type of speech we have had. Even the arguments used by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale were not very well based. I do not remember any of his hon. Friends suggesting that a Recess should be cut down on another occasion when Russia started tests again. They found Question Time and ordinary debate sufficient in which to criticise Russia. Why is it suddenly necessary when this is happening on the other side of the Iron Curtain to cut down a Recess? The hon. Member and his hon. Friends have had adequate opportunity at Question Time and in debate to discuss the issues he has mentioned. The amount of time they have used on these topics knocks the ground from under his feet. We had a two days' debate on foreign affairs, plus Question Time, to discuss the dispatch of troops abroad and nuclear tests.
218 I do not think it was right to dismay the country by deliberately suggesting chat we are failing in our responsibility. He suggested that a crisis might blow up about the dispatch of troops to Thailand. He knows very well that if a crisis did blow up, Mr. Speaker has full authority to recall the House. I suggest to the Leader of the House that on this occasion, if not on every previous occasion, the length of time for the Recess is right. We have jobs to do in the country, and I believe we should be doing our duty there instead of riding the hobby-horses of the hon. Member and having to listen to his extremist propaganda.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
Before coming to my main theme, I want briefly to refer to the constitutional arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls). He was suggesting that there was something constitutionally misguided about raising matters of great importance on the Motion for the Adjournment. He must know from his study of the constitution that this is a time-honoured method of not allowing the House to adjourn without bringing to the notice of the Executive some of the matters which are hanging fire and which are of serious importance and which might present future dangers. What my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) has done is nothing more than to exercise the normal rights of a Member of Parliament.
I shall confine myself to asking the Leader of the House for a specific assurance concerning the very dangerous situation in Laos. We have had news from Laos which is directly related to the Parliamentary situation. It is being suggested in Washington that a new crisis of graver impact than the last would arise in Laos if there were a failure of the negotiations just restarted between Prince Souvanna Phouma and the King and, it is hoped, the other two princes.
In an interview last night, Mr. Harriman, who is the President's special adviser on affairs in Laos and South-East Asia, was asked by the interviewer whether the troops which are now committed in Thailand would be used in Laos. It was very easy for Mr. Harriman to give a clear denial, but he deliberately 219 refused to give such a denial and said that that was not a question which they were discussing at the moment. He described it as an "iffy" question upon which he was not now prepared to pronounce. That highlights the seriousness of the position in Laos, and every one of us is directly concerned with that situation because the Government have committed troops to Thailand.
If by the middle of this month, as has been suggested in reports from Washington, the new effort of Prince Souvanna Phouma should unfortunately have failed—and I shall submit some of the serious reasons which might exist for such a failure—the Government would be faced with a new situation even more dangerous than that which obtained a fortnight ago, because it is quite possible that the American Government would then commit American troops to the territory of Laos. The American Government have been responsible for getting the British Government to agree to the committal of our troops to Thailand. Whatever the form, it is generally accepted in serious political circles that although there was an invitation from Thailand, the original initiative came from the United States Government, a view which is not denied in Washington, where no reason for denying it is seen. If the American Government ask our own Government to allow our troops to be so committed to the territory of Laos at the same time as the Americans commit their troops, I would like a specific assurance from the Leader of the House that Parliament would be immediately recalled before the Government took any such decision.
I should like to ask, secondly, for an assurance that the House would not be presented with a fait accompli if this serious situation should arise, but that the Government will come to the House after recall with a proposal and not with a decision. It is well known that once the Government commit troops, it is extremely difficult for any hon. Member or any group of Members, or even a majority, to demand the immediate withdrawal of those troops if the House does not approve, because the security and safety of the committed men might be involved and I, for one, would not be prepared to demand immediate withdrawal in such 220 a situation if I were told by the Government that their military advisers had told them that it was not safe to do so.
If the Government come to the House with the announcement that the troops have been committed to the territory of Laos, the power of the House to say "Halt" will have been abolished on this occasion, because it will be virtually impossible to do anything about it. It might be possible after some time had passed to reverse the policy and coerce the Government into undoing what they have done, but that would be a dangerous manœuvre. The proper way to proceed in this situation is for the Government to give the assurance that they will come to Parliament before any final step is taken in the committal of troops beyond the territory of Thailand.
Like every hon. Member, I hope that the negotiations now being conducted in Laos will be completely successful. Some months ago I was one of those who supported the Lord Privy Seal, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in the policy of bringing about these negotiations. As the Leader of the House knows, the Government have had the support of the Opposition in what has been a sensible policy of insisting that Prince Souvanna Phouma should be the new Prime Minister and that he should hold the Government together. But reports from responsible quarters in Washington suggest that these new negotiations will end in failure. In spite of the recommendations of the Geneva Conference and in spite of the good work done by the two co-Chairmen, one British and one from the Soviet Union, General Phoumi time and again has deliberately sabotaged any attempt to form a Coalition Government. It is suggested in Washington that now that he has achieved what he wanted—the committal of American troops and troops from other S.E.A.T.O. countries to Thailand, he will now use this new situation, having got us to some extent involved, to sabotage the new round of negotiations.
§ Mr. Speaker
We cannot possibly debate the policy aspects of this matter now. The point is made in connection with this Motion by the hon. Member saying that there is likelihood of failure yet again.
§ Mr. Mendelson
Having expressed the sincere wish, which every hon. Member 221 shares, that the negotiations should succeed, I was trying to make plain only briefly why I took these reports from Washington seriously when they suggested that the negotiations might fail yet again. It might otherwise seem ambiguous when I was largely basing my argument on an expectation of failure. I want to make it clear that a great deal depends on the negotiations succeeding, and it was only in that connection that I went into detail.
If in the middle of the month there were to arise a situation in which there were to be new consultations on what ought to be done—and this is something discussed in all the Foreign Offices involved—if Prince Souvanna Phouma, having made the final attempt, then decided to go back to France, as he has announced he would, and if he were not prepared to continue his useful and important efforts to form a coalition and to bring peace to that country, what will the policy of Her Majesty's Government be? Whom are they to support in that situation? Will they try to persuade Prince Souvanna Phouma not to go back to Paris but to proceed with his mission?
Those are the questions which are decisive and the House is entitled to ask for those assurances from the Government before agreeing to an Adjournment Motion which carries us to the end of the month and beyond the period which may be the new crisis period.
The Leader of the House cannot tell us that he is not speaking as a Departmental Minister. He has at his elbow the comfort and advice of at least one member of the Foreign Office at Ministerial level, and he must appreciate that the mere statement that we are dealing with a formal Adjournment Motion could not satisfy the House. It is clear that the assurance would be a political assurance and would be binding on the whole Government. My attitude to the Motion depends entirely upon his preparedness to give the assurance which I have demanded.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
As a loyal supporter of Her Majesty's Government, whenever such a course is possible, I naturally want to support my right hon. Friend's Motion, but I wonder whether, before committing myself finally to supporting him, he would give 222 me some information. I am a little concerned, as are other hon. Members, about the Common Market negotiations. Although we are having a two-day debate on the Common Market, tomorrow and the next day, it is recognised that negotiations are going on all the time and that much mare information will progressively become available over the next month or two.
I seek the assurance that the fifteen-day Recess will not be used in any way as an argument by the Leader of the House for showing that there is no time for at least a two-day debate if decisions are announced, as has been commonly rumoured in the newspapers, some time at the end of July, so that we shall have at least two days to discuss decisions announced then on the progress made by the Government with the Common Market countries; and, further, that after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in September we shall have another debate fairly soon after the House returns from the Summer Recess before anything further is done by the Government. If I could have those two assurances, I should be delighted to support the Motion.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Cabe)
In spite of the rhetorical jibes and sneers of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), perhaps I should say because of them, 1 still think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) is right in his opposition to the Motion. I know that this kind of Motion has become a sort of common form over the years, and it is right that it should be so even when the opposition is not seriously intended and when it is being used only in order to call attention to odds and ends and untidy remnants of what we have been debating over the weeks. But this is not that kind of opposition.
I do not want to be pretentious or pontifical about it, but it is my view, and I am sure the view of others, that the world is now at an extremely critical point, an exceptionally important and dangerous point. It would be difficult to think of any other time in history when so many fundamental questions, whose right decision has the greatest possible importance not only for this 223 country but for the world, have fallen to be considered at the same time.
I do not want to list them, because I do not want to occupy more time than is necessary to my purpose in opposing the Motion, but it seems to me that in that situation the House would be well advised to take the minimum interregnum rather than the maximum interregnum even if the Government were treating the House fairly on these questions. The Government are not and have not been treating the House fairly in these matters. Nor is there any indication that they propose to do so.
There have been many occasions when Members opposing the Motion for the Adjournment have said that matters have been ruled out because there has not been time. If the House of Commons has been denied the opportunity of concluding its debates and reaching decisions about them in several important recent cases, it has not been because there has not been time. It has been because the Government, with the connivance or active co-operation of the Opposition, have decided to deprive the House of its opportunities. I will cite two recent instances well within memory.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That is exactly the same point as that on which I have been ruling. I understand that the fact that there has not been a debate on a specific topic may be very relevant to the argument on this Motion, but the reasons why there has not been a debate do not seem to be relevant to it.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not quite sure that I follow that. The point which I am trying to make is that the Government have used their power so to manipulate the business and procedure of the House as to prevent a decision from being taken by the House on matters on which the House would have desired to take a decision. It is not for a Government which have done that on at least two occasions, and perhaps others, now to come to the House and to say, "Assist us in depriving the House of the opportunity of debating or voting upon other matters by adjourning at this time for longer than is necessary or longer than is right."
I have two instances in mind. I will not debate the merits of them, but I want to recall what happened. Some- 224 thing was said about Supply days, which are at the disposal of the official Opposition. On the last occasion when foreign affairs were to be discussed this very question of Thailand and Laos was prominent. On that occasion a Motion was overwhelmingly passed to report Progress and to ask leave to sit again before we had even began to discuss business —not merely when there had been no progress but when no progress could have been recorded, because before any speech on the Supply day had been made, the Motion to report Progress was moved. I am not saying that there was anything improper about that. The procedure is there, and technically it was properly used, but only technically, because the purpose of it was obviously to prevent a decision on a Supply day when a vote had been refused only with the greatest difficulty.
When we passed from that to the Adjournment, when in more difficult and more ambiguous circumstances a vote is still possible, the final spokesman for the Government went beyond 10 p.m. and talked his own Motion out for the express purpose of not allowing a vote to be taken on that occasion either.
The right hon. Gentleman poked a little fun at my hon. Friends and myself; he said that we should have been more watchful and more alive and should have sought to move the Closure. But that is not the point. It ought not to be left to a backbench Member to watch carefully in order to see whether the Government intend to talk out their own business and whether it is only a question of debate. Debates in the House can sometimes be useful without a vote where one wants a general, exploratory discussion. It has often been done with great advantage to the Government; when they have not yet made up their mind about some proposals or some Bill, it has been useful to have a general debate in the House to see what was the general balance of opinion and to see what they could do at the appropriate time to bring in their proposals.
This was not that kind of debate. The Leader of the House said expressly, "I do not have to have a conclusion to this debate. A vote is unnecessary because in my opinion if there were a vote there would be an overwhelming majority of the House on my side." No doubt he was entitled to hold that view, having 225 regard to the express support of the official Opposition and their spokesman on the Front Bench, but I hope that it is not going too far for me to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in these matters to forget for the moment that he is Chairman of the Conservative Party—
§ Mr. Speaker
Certainly it is irrelevant to this Motion whether he is Chairman of the Conservative Party or not Chairman of it. With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that his point in connection with this Motion is made by saying that for one reason or another we have not had a Division on this point and therefore he does not agree to the Motion.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am saying, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that on consideration you will think it not improper for me to say it, that as a private Member of the House of Commons I can claim that the Leader of the House owes an obligation to me as well as to the Leader of the Opposition—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Member will not misunderstand me. He knows as much about these matters as almost anybody here, but he knows that my duty is to keep what is said relevant to the Question which we are discussing, and it seemed to me that he had gone beyond the bounds of relevancy at that point.
§ Mr. Silverman
If I have done so, I will not pursue it for a moment, but it happens to be a fact that the right hon. Gentleman holds other offices than that of Leader of the House. All I seek to do is to remind them that he is Leader of the House and that in that capacity, at any rate, his obligations are as much to private Members as they are to anyone else, and I am appealing to him in that capacity.
I know that leading the House of Commons, unlike bridge, is not an easy game. The conventions are not quite as well understood and the penalties for breaking them are not as obvious, but surely if we are in a situation which I described as so serious at the beginning of my speech, it is not wrong to ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that, if every other Member of the House of Commons were prepared to support the Government in sending troops out of this country into a foreign country 226 without the consent or authorisation of Parliament, it would still be wrong to deprive any hon. Member who did not support the Government of the opportunity to say so and to record his dissent according to the honoured traditions and practices of the House.
We shall be coming to the end of the Session altogether at the end of July. There will then be weeks and weeks and weeks when the Government will be inaccessible to question or argument or to effective representation of any kind. But all these questions will go on in the meantime. Laos will go on, Thailand will go on, the Common Market will go on, and all the other fundamental issues will not stagnate just because the House of Commons has gone on holiday. By the time we come back all sorts of irrevocable decisions may have been taken. We may have become involved and immersed in many parts of the world in circumstances in which even those who now so enthusiastically support the Government will begin to have their doubts. In the recent debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) described the foreign affairs debate as the worst in their long Parliamentary experience. That may or may not be so, but do not let us produce a situation in which it could fairly be said that this House of Commons is the most subservient House of Commons in that time—
§ Mr. Silverman
If it is not, it is rapidly becoming so.
All these questions are being asked, fraught with terror as they are, and my right hon. Friends are either content with no debate or content to support the Government in preventing the House of Commons from coming to a decision upon them. The Government want to see what the United States do and the Opposition Front Bench wait to see what the Government are doing; and then they all do it together and try to shout down those of us who want the House of Commons to take a more serious and responsible view of its functions. There are people who think that our way of life is so important and so much better than that of anyone else that we are entitled to sentence hundreds of millions of 227 people to death to preserve it. If we are entitled to do that, cannot we at least sacrifice three or four days of our Whit-sun holiday in order to be faithful to it?
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I want to raise what may appear to be a rather small matter, but I think that it is important, and it is the reason why I believe that the House should not accept the Motion to adjourn for the Whitsun Recess. On the surface this may appear to be small and trivial, but after the House has heard me I believe that hon. Members will regard it as important.
I was asked to raise an important subject concerning the difficulties experienced by persons in rural areas in getting proper medical treatment under the National Health Service. They could not get their prescriptions dispensed or surgery facilities or a whole host of day-to-day necessities which are laid down in the National Health Service Act. I wrote to the Minister of Health and sent him a circular and a cutting from the Press.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. The hon. Member is going too far. We are discussing the Question,That this House at its rising on Friday do adjourn till Tuesday 26th June.It is in order for the hon. Member to suggest that because a certain matter requires discussion the House should not adjourn, but he is out of order to discuss the details of the matter which he would like to raise.
§ Mr. Lewis
That is why I did not discuss the details, give the name of the person or the area or state the complaint. I generalised. I was going on to explain why I felt that the House should not adjourn and to explain why the Leader of the House should have an investigation made into this matter which I shall mention. This is why I think that the House should not adjourn. The reason is that if the House adjourns for three weeks I shall have no opportunity to raise this issue, and therefore I oppose the Motion to enable me to raise it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I regret having to interrupt the hon. Member again, but this is exactly what he cannot do—give the details of this matter.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am not giving the details but the general question of why I think the House should not adjourn for the period stated in the Motion. Other hon. Members have mentioned nuclear tests, the Common Market and various matters which they feel should be discussed. I wish to mention a subject which ought to be debated, and I feel that the House should not adjourn until this subject which I shall mention has been discussed.
I asked a Question last Tuesday of the Minister of Health—whether he had received a letter from me on this subject. I received a rather flippant reply in which he thanked me for sending him an extract from the East Anglian Daily Times of 17th April. But the Minister has never written to me, although he says that he has. I followed him last week and told him that he had not written, although he had told the House so, and even though I telephoned again this morning I still have not had the reply which he said had been sent.
My purpose in opposing the Motion is that if the House did not adjourn I could either raise the matter on the Adjournment or ask a Question. I cannot say that the Minister has told a deliberate lie because that would be out of order, but he is certainly guilty of a terminological inexactitude when he states that he has written to me as far back as last week.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is going into details of his case. All that he is entitled to do on this Motion is to argue that he has a case that he would like to put and, therefore, he would prefer the House not to adjourn for the Recess. He is not entitled to go into the details of his case, but that is what he is now doing.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Member will not continue along that line. That would be quite out of order and quite wrong.
§ Mr. Lewis
Then I withdraw that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I ask the Leader 229 of the House to ensure that when Ministers make statements in the House in answer to Questions stating that they have written to hon. Members dealing with their complaints, they have in fact done so and that they do not say that they have written when they have not done so. Will he also ensure that when hon. Members telephone Ministries and speak to the Minister or his officers and they promise to look at a matter urgently, there is not a delay of a whole `week before the matter is dealt with, because that is very serious?
As we are discussing the Motion that the House should adjourn for three weeks and as even when Parliament is sitting Ministers promise hon. Members to deal with certain matters and then treat both the hon. Members and the House with contempt, I think I am entitled to oppose the Adjournment and to say that this is a most serious matter. If we cannot get Ministers to do their job properly and carry out their promises even when Parliament is sitting, how are we to deal with this issue? This is not the first time it has happened. Other hon. Members besides myself have experienced this.
I want the Leader of the House to put this matter to the Minister of Health and various other Ministers and to ensure that when Ministers give answers in the House making pledges and saying that they have written to hon. Members, they have seen to it that such letters have been sent. Otherwise I shall most certainly oppose the Motion.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I support the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). He has asked that the House should return to work a week earlier so that we can discuss the nuclear tests and the situation which has resulted in our sending troops to Thailand. That will take up two days of the week. I suggest that the rest of the week could very profitably be used in discussing the affairs of Scotland.
I fail to see any really serious argument for having the extra week so that we can carry on an intensive campaign among our constituents. I live among my constituents and know them, and after the first week following Whitsun 230 they will say "Is it not time you started work again?" The same thing will be said throughout Scotland. I wonder what would be said in this House if the miners in Scotland went on an unofficial strike for a fortnight to celebrate Whit-sun. A lot of people in Scotland do not know why we should celebrate Whitsun.
If what my hon. Friend has suggested were accepted there would be an enthusiastic response in Scotland, where people would say "At last, the talking shop has decided to do a little extra work." I am sure that this would have the support of the miners in my constituency. If any body of people in Scotland requires two weeks' holiday with pay, it is the miners of South Ayrshire. The miners throughout Scotland are very alarmed at present about the threat of pit closures and are all the time asking "Is the British House of Commons devoting any time to discussing the economic problems affecting miners and other industrial workers all over the west of Scotland?" They read in the newspapers that the Scottish Grand Committee is devoting its time and energies to discussing in great detail a Bill dealing with licensing in Scotland. I understand that it is greatly desired that that Bill should be rushed through so that in July we may begin to discuss other subjects which are of far greater importance to the people of Scotland than facilities to enable the drink vested interests to exploit the increased opportunities for satisfying thirst which will come when the Bill finally makes its way to the Statute Book.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
While I oppose much that is said by hon. Members opposite, I should have no objection to the Scottish Grand Committee sitting throughout the Whitsun Recess.
§ Mr. Hughes
If the hon. Member normally took as much interest in the Scottish Grand Committee as he apparently does at the moment, we should see him oftener. We have not seen him very often during the last three months, and we have not seen him during the last three weeks. I carried out a casual examination of the Division lists for the last fortnight, and I cannot see that he has been doing a great deal. He should welcome the opportunity of coming back for an extra 231 week to show his constituents that he really is a Member of the House.
I suggest that Scottish hon. Members would be pleased to come back here after the first week in order to deal with the problem of how to find work for all our unemployed, how to deal with the ever-growing housing problem and how to deal with the economic problems which are thrusting themselves upon us. It may be, of course, that in Peterborough there are very large crowds of people queueing to attend the hon. Member's meetings.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am giving the hon. Member the benefit of the doubt. Apart from the by-elections, at this time of the year there is very little political activity in this country. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the House knows very well—he knows as well as anybody—that it is very difficult to get audiences at this time to listen even to Cabinet Ministers, let alone ordinary Members of Parliament. Most Members of Parliament during this holiday take the advice of Voltaire, which was "Cultivate your garden". It is ridiculous to suggest that we need this extra week to find out what our constituents are thinking, whether they are interested in whether the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) is in the House of Commons or not. That is completely fantastic, and if we think that, we are deluding ourselves. We are having this extra week purely because we have an opportunity to indulge in two weeks' unofficial strike without anybody taking much notice of it.
What about the two issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale? When we press the Leader of the House on whether we ought not to have a vote about the tests, he says, "We have the general opinion of the House". When we press the Prime Minister at Question Time, he also says, "Yes, I am confident that I have the feeling of the House". But one can only get the feeling of the House by having a vote. I suggest that one day of the extra week should be given to a vote about the tests. A Motion should be put down by the Government in support of their policy. Why not? 232 Surely the House of Commons is not just a debating society. This is an assembly where matters have to be decided. With the tacit agreement of the Opposition Front Bench, the Government have gat into the habit of assuming that they have the overwhelming support of the country for their tests policy, for their Polaris policy, and for their Thailand policy.
The Leader of the House tells us to put down a Motion. We have put down a Motion. We have done it three times. But we cannot get it discussed. If at one of the crowded meetings that we are supposed to be going to address during the next fortnight someone says, "As a constituent of yours, I want to know how you voted on the question of the tests", what are we to say? We must reply, "We have not had a vote". The people will then say, "Why do you go to Parliament? Does the House of Commons decide things, or are things decided by a nice cosy little talk or a tacit agreement between people playing political ping-pong across the Table of the House of Commons?".
If the Prime Minister wants to go to President Kennedy or to President de Gaulle and say, "I have the support of the House of Commons", and they say, "What was the vote on the last occasion?", he will have to reply, "We have not had a vote". I suggest to the Leader of the House that he could usefully allocate one day to the setting down of a Motion stating that this House approves the policy of Her Majesty's Government in agreeing to the tests in the Pacific, so that he might see what happens.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Leader of the House may feel sure that he has support, but does he think he would get an overwhelming number of the hon. Members on the other side of the House going into the Tory Lobby to support such a Motion? Of course not. The result would be that large numbers of hon. Members would abstain.
§ Mr. Hughes
This is what the House of Commons has come to. While the people in the constituencies think that 233 hon. Members are fighting tooth and nail and battling to death in the House of Commons over serious issues, what is really happening? There is a tacit agreement to avoid the House of Commons having to give its verdict and opinion on the most momentous issues of the day. Sooner or later the people will ask: "Why are you not voting on these issues?", "Why did you not vote?" or "Why did you abstain?" Surely this is what democracy is about. Therefore, I suggest that if the Leader of the House wants truthfully to say to President Kennedy or President de Gaulle" The overwhelming majority of the people of Britain are behind the Government's policy ", he should test it out by means of a vote.
There is also the question of Thailand. I put a Question to the Prime Minister asking him if he was aware that in Thailand there was a corrupt despotism, a corrupt dictatorship and an illiterate population, and that we are sending troops there to buttress and support a feudal monarchy or despotism. The Prime Minister replied "I have stated the position to the House of Commons, and the House of Commons supports me." How does he know? Does he think that the great majority of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House will be prepared to go to their constituents and say "Yes, I voted for sending troops to Thailand to support a corrupt Government"?
I suggest, therefore, that the Leader of the House should try to inculcate a little political honesty into the proceedings of the House. He will not do this by dodging, evading and sabotaging real discussion. The only way for him to do it is to say, as any Government should, "This is our policy and we are asking the House of Commons to support it." Until he adopts that attitude we shall perpetually make the sort of claims my hon. Friends have been making today.
There is absolutely nothing in the idea that hon. Members are so exhausted after their labours on the Finance Bill that they need an extra fortnight in which to recuperate and to discover the real feelings of their constituents. After all, they have plenty of time in which to do that; twelve weeks in the summer, 234 three weeks in December, another fortnight at Easter and any amount of opportunity to find out just what the feelings of their constituents are. There is real political meaning in the protest my hon. Friends and I are making. This protest will triumph because our words will echo a response in the minds of the people.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. lain Macleod)
If I may start with the last speech, might I say that I always enjoy the remarks of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) when he talks about the miners of Ayrshire and unofficial strikes. In fact, we normally hear those remarks three times a year—whenever we move to adjourn. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire made an admirable quotation and perhaps he will remember this slight variation of another:Age does not wither him nor custom stale, His infinite lack of variety".The Motion before the House states:
That this House, at its rising on Friday do adjourn till Tuesday, 26th June. Let me first take the question of the normal period for which the House adjourns. I have the records covering the last fourteen years with me. One year the House adjourned for a month because of the dissolution of Parliament, and on the remaining thirteen occasions we adjourned for seventeen days on ten of them—the period we are now suggesting—and on three occasions, when presumably the business on the Floor of the House was unduly congested, the House adjourned for ten days. So the precedents as such are clearly in support of the Motion.
The main Question that has been put and supported by a number of hon. Members is whether the skies, particularly in foreign affairs, are so dark at the present time that it would be best to have a shorter adjournment and to spend more of our time discussing either these matters or some other matters which, presumably, other hon. Members might wish to put in competition with them. I will first take the point made by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), who referred to the specific case of Laos. If I might, first, I will take the general point and then deal specifically with Laos. Regarding the 235 general point, the House will realise that Standing Order No. 112, subparagraph (1), states:Whenever the House stands adjourned and it is represented to Mr. Speaker by Her Majesty's Ministers that the public interest requires that the House should meet at any earlier time during the adjournment, Mr. Speaker, if he is satisfied that the public interest does so require, may give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice.I make this point because it has happened on occasions, when the sort of situation the hon. Member mentioned has arisen, that the House has come back.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does the Leader of the House really expect the House of Commons, which has witnessed the Government's efforts to avoid any discussion, debate or vote about Thailand and Laos, to have any confidence that if the situation develops he or his colleagues would exercise those powers under the Standing Order?
§ Mr. Macleod
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) must, of course, make his own judgment on this, but I hope that, after the House has listened to me, it will be satisfied on this particular point.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), who opposed the Motion, rested his case mainly on foreign affairs. It is true that this has become, as has been said, a time-honoured method of either raising a foreign affairs debate or, sometimes, Home Office subjects and matters affecting individual liberty if any such matters are particularly concerning the House. The first point the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made was in relation to the series of H-bomb tests, and he said more than once in his speech that the present series of American tests was, perhaps, the largest ever undertaken.
Actually this series began in the Pacific on 25th April, and to date there have been some 15 tests. I would remind the hon. Member, however—and I expect that this slipped his memory or he would not have used the words he did—that President Kennedy said in a statement on 2nd March that the United States would be conducting far fewer tests than the Soviet Union with 236 far less fall-out. Thus I think that that point made by the hon. Member was not a sound one.
Regarding the question of high altitude tests, we are here, as was clearly indicated from the Chair, beginning to touch the edge of order and, for that matter, so is the point about Ministerial responsibility, because these tests, of course, are taking place from Johnson Island, which is under United States sovereignty.
Regarding the question of disarmament, this has been made clear. Perhaps the best words I can use are those contained in the joint letter of the Prime Minister of this country, the President of the United States and Mr. Khrushchev of 7th February, which stated:Our representatives will remain at the conference table until more results are achieved, however long that will take".There need be no doubt about the determination of Her Majesty's Government in this field.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne raised, as did the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, the question of troops in Thailand, and asked for a debate on the subject and also a vote. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has raised the matter today and on previous occasions. The position, as I see it, is this; there is, with respect to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, a clear distinction in these matters, which he will find in Erskine May, between the position of the Leader of the Opposition and that of other hon. Members who may be critical of the Government or who even may have Motions of censure on the Order Paper.
It is a known and accepted custom of the House that, although the Government are entitled to take into account their own programme regarding the actual provision of a day, formal Motions of disapproval in the name of the Leader of the official Opposition—and my predecessors have made it clear that this does not extend to leaders of either smaller parties or groups of hon. Members in the House—are normally taken, for obvious reasons, as soon as possible.
It is true, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, that a considerable number of hon. Members—he said between 40 and 50—have supported a 237 Motion on the Order Paper which is in critical terms. But there are other Motions on the Order Paper which are supported by larger numbers of hon. Members than that, and we have not yet been able to find time to discuss those. He will realise that in this sort of matter there is, and always has been, the clearest possible distinction between disapproval voiced officially from the Opposition Front Bench and disapproval voiced, from either side, by those who do not hold that particular position.
I was asked one specific point by the hon. Member for Penistone with which I would like to deal. This concerns the situation in Laos and the question of the recall of the House. It is hoped that Prince Souvanna Phouma will meet the leaders of the other Laotian factions in the next few days after seeing the King of Laos. It may well be that the prospect for an agreement is not particularly good. I would not attempt to deny that for a moment. We cannot see at present how matters will develop, but if the negotiations fail it is perfectly possible, as the hon. Member said, that the situation might deteriorate. If fighting breaks out there is the risk that foreign intervention could arise suddenly. One cannot say now, gazing into the crystal, whether a situation will arise which will make it necessary or desirable to recall Parliament from its Whitsun Recess, but I assure the hon. Member, and I think this will to some extent reassure the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, that in such a situation, if the negotiations failed, if the situation deteriorated rapidly and fighting looked likely to break out again, certainly we would consider the operation of Standing Order 112, and would consider making representations accordingly.
§ Mr. Macleod
I said that we would consider it, and make representations on behalf of the Government.
On the question of a vote on some of these matters, we had some jocular asides on Business Questions the other day, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne will remember, but, with respect, I do not think that he is on a sound point here. He was saying that there was no real opportunity for a vote, because the discussions took place 238 on the Motion for the Adjournment and the Government spokesman talked over the time. The House will remember that some of the greatest debates in the House have taken place on the Motion for the Adjournment, and some of the most important decisions have also been taken on the Motion for the Adjournment. Indeed, the last time a Prime Minister of this country fell in a debate in this House, just before the Chamber was destroyed by German bombs, was in an Adjournment debate. This shows that it is possible to have great Divisions of historic importance on the Motion for the Adjournment.
Although it is not for me to say what action the Chair should take, I think that one can reasonably say that if the Closure is applied for at the end of a full day's debate, it is almost invariably granted by the Chair. Therefore, great debates do take place on the Adjournment, and great Divisions have taken place, and a Division could have taken place on that issue.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I have no doubt that the Leader of the House was perfectly right in what he was saying. I was myself a Member of the House of Commons on the occasion to which he referred, and the vote on the Adjournment which led to the fall of the Neville Chamberlain Government was one of the most important votes in the history of the House. But would the right hon. Gentleman consider what would have happened on that fateful day in June if the Government spokesman had talked out the debate?
§ Mr. Macleod
I know perfectly well what would have happened. Mr. Herbert Morrison, as he then was, would have leapt to his feet a few minutes before the end and would have moved the Closure. Nobody could have the-remotest doubt about that.
One or two other points were made. My hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) will, I hope, let me say what real and refreshing fruit his first sentence was, in which he gave complete support to the Government, but I cannot give him the undertaking—
§ Mr. Macleod
I know, but one step at a time will do, and that, at least, is something. I am afraid that I cannot give him the undertaking exactly in the terms which he asked for, but, as has been said on many occasions in relation to the Common Market, which we are to discuss in a two-day debate starting tomorrow, the position is that, quite apart from that debate, full opportunity will be given for consideration, discussion and debate by the House.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) raised a point with which I know he will not expect me to deal now. I will merely say that I will draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, who will no doubt consider what was said and read it in HANSARD.
§ To sum up, the position is that 17 days, the period to which I am asking the House to agree, is in fact the normal time. The great majority of the precedents accord with it. Secondly, there is provision, and I have given an undertaking in response to a specific question in relation to the situation in Laos, for the recall of the House under Standing Order No. 112 if representations are made by Her Majesty's Ministers to Mr. Speaker, and if Mr. Speaker agrees with those representations. I think that if we keep those two points in mind, we should be well justified in taking the short rest that is suggested and returning on Tuesday, 26th June.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 4.241
|Division No. 213.]||AYES||[5.5 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Critchley, Julian||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Allason, James||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Arbuthnot, John||Cunningham, Knox||Hurd, Sir Anthony|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||de Ferranti, Basil||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Barber, Anthony||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Drayson, G. B.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Batsford, Brian||Duncan, Sir James||Jackson, John|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Eden, John||James, David|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Jennings, J. C.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Farr, John||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Fell, Anthony||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Bldgood, John C.||Finlay, Graeme||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Biffen, John||Fisher, Nigel||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kitson, Timothy|
|Bishop, F. P.||Freeth, Denzil||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bossom, Clive||Gammans, Lady||Leavey, J. A.|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Gardner, Edward||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Box, Donald||Gibson-Watt, David||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Glover, Sir Douglas||Lewie, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Lindsay, Sir Martin|
|Bralne, Bernard||Goodhew, Victor||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Brewis, John||Gower, Raymond||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Bromley- Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.||Longbottom, Charles|
|Brooman-White, R.||Green, Alan||Longden, Gilbert|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bullard, Denys||Gurden, Harold||McAdden, Stephen|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hall, John (Wycombe)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Burden, F. A.||Hamilton Michael (Welingborough)||McLaren, Martin|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs.)|
|Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A. (SaffronWalden)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hastings, Stephen||Maddan, Martin|
|Chataway, Christopher||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Chichester,-Clark, R.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Marlowe, Anthony|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hiley, Joseph||Marshall, Douglas|
|Cole, Norman||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Marten, Neil|
|Collard, Richard||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Matthews, Gordon (Merlden)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hobson, Sir John||Mawby, Ray|
|Cooper, A. E.||Holland, Philip||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hollingworth, John||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Mills, Stratton|
|Cordie, John||Hopkins, Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hornby, R. P.||Morgan, William|
|Costain, A. P.||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Roots, William||Turner, Colin|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Seymour, Leslie||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Sharples, Richard||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Shaw, M.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Osborne, John (Hallam)||Skeet, T. H. H.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Walder, David|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Smithers, Peter||Walker, Peter|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Partridge, E.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Pearson, Frank (Clltheroe)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Studholme, Sir Henry||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Pitt, Miss Edith||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Pott, Percivall||Talbot, John E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wise, A. R.|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Ramsden, James||Teeling, Sir William||Worsley, Marcus|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Temple, John M.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Rees, Hugh||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Renton, David||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Thomas, Peter (Conway)||Mr. Whitelaw and Mr. Noble.|
|Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Mr.Noble.|
|Robinson, Rt. Hn. sir R. (B'pool, S.)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Bowles, Frank||Mr. M. Foot and Mr. Emrys Hughes.|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Mr.Emrys Huges.|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|